DC flood

Welcome to the Flood Zone is a nationally distributed resource for those interested in flood zone issues, land surveying, real estate, history, and educational opportunities. This newsletter has been proudly featured by the Association of State Floodplain Managers, the National Society of Professional Surveyors, and the Maine and New Hampshire Floodplain Management Programs. Please feel free to share with your friends and colleagues!

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In this Issue of Welcome to the Flood Zone:

Message from Jim
Announcement: The 2019 Maine Stormwater Conference is December 2-3!
In the News: "FEMA Says Deadline to File for Dorian-related Flood Insurance Claims Approaching"
Resources: "FEMA Map Service Center - Product Availability" and "US Coastal Property at Risk from Rising Seas"
Real Estate Corner: "Our Basement Flooded 4 Times! Why It Could Happen to You, Too" and "Building Homes in Flood Zones: Why Does This Bad Idea Keep Happening?"
NFIP Guidance: "National Flood Insurance Program: Reauthorization"
History Corner: "November 6, 1977, the Kelly Barnes Dam Gives Way in Georgia"

Banner Image: The Washington, D.C. area experienced excessive rainfall back in July of this year. In this image, a man stands on his car on Canal Road when flash flooding turned the road into a river. Image by Dave Dildine, WTOP.


Message from Jim

As we near the closing of the 2019 Atlantic hurricane season (June 1 – November 30) and the Pacific hurricane season (May 15 – November 30), it is important to remember that risk of flood damage does not end here. These dates represent the increased likelihood of a storm having high sustained winds, but flooding events occur year-round from numerous different causes. Many might assume that the higher the sustained wind, the higher the risk of flooding. Actually, rainfall amount in a tropical storm or hurricane is a function of its forward speed, not sustained wind, so in general, the slower the forward speed, the higher the rainfall amounts that can occur (Dolce, 2019).

For example, if a hurricane was downgraded to Category 2 (96-110 mph sustained winds), but has a 5 mph forward speed, the area can still get inundated with rain while the remaining high winds are plenty strong to push water further inland or trap water from moving down its normal path of discharge. A good example of this circumstance was in 2012 when Hurricane Isaac moved slowly, stalling on the Louisiana coast as a Category 1 (74-95 mph). It produced an 11-foot storm surge overwhelming a back levee in Plaquemines Parish, sending water up to 12 feet deep into Braithwaite, Louisiana, an area which had minimal flooding during Hurricane Katrina (Dolce, 2019).

The elements that create large flooding events are extremely interactive and seldom caused by a single factor. And of course, actual damage is a result of more than the strength of a storm, but also the amount of development and people in its path and the mitigation strategies in place to protect them. We know we can’t control the weather, but we can realign our perception of risk through education, and strengthen our efforts to minimize damage and injury through mitigation.



2019 Maine Stormwater Conference, Portland, ME, December 2-3

Jim will be offering a brief presentation entitled,"Flood Risk Resiliency - Understanding Flood Zone Mapping Changes" at the 2019 Maine Stormwater Conference in Portland, ME on December 2nd!

The biennial Maine Stormwater Conference brings together municipal, state, and federal employees; engineers; planners; academics; and other professionals to learn about and discuss stormwater management.

Click here to learn more about the conference!


In the News

FEMA Says Deadline to File for Dorian-related Flood Insurance Claims Approaching

By Annette Weston, WCTI News Channel 12, October 17, 2019

An important deadline for those who experienced flooding is fast approaching; National Flood Insurance Program policyholders in North Carolina who had Hurricane Dorian damage have 60 days from their date of loss to file a Proof of Loss.

They say homeowners should file a claim with a flood insurance agent and compile information to support it, such as photos, videos and receipts that are helpful to establish the value of property and possessions.

Read more - this is helpful to know for future flooding events!



MSC products

FEMA Map Service Center - Product Availability

This web page offers a list of the latest updates to flood mapping products, going back 12 months for both preliminary and final regulatory products. These products include Flood Insurance Rate Maps, Flood Insurance Studies, Letters of Map Change, and GIS Databases.

The list can be sorted by State, Community Name, Effective Date, or MSC Posting Date to find the most recent products.

Click here to view FEMA MSC Product Availability.


US Coastal Property at Risk from Rising Seas

The Union of Concerned Scientists performed a national analysis to identify the number of U.S. homes at risk from chronic flooding over the coming decades due to sea level rise. The flooding highlighted in the analysis is not caused by storms - it is simply the result of high tides rising higher, and reaching further inland, as sea levels rise. For this analysis, chronic flooding is defined to be flooding that occurs 26 times or more per year, a level of disruption also referred to as chronic inundation.

The findings presented are intended to be a starting point for community, state, and national-level discussions about the risk of sea level rise to coastal property. Data by Congressional district are also available. Where possible, communities should undertake more detailed local mapping in order to better assess their specific risks.

Check it out!

for sale

Real Estate Corner

Our Basement Flooded 4 Times! Why It Could Happen to You, Too

By Sasha Brown-Worsham, Realtor.com, November 28, 2018

This article isn't about the type of flooding that NFIP flood insurance covers, but the information is important nonetheless! There are many reasons a basement can get flooded, and this family unfortunately experienced several of them.

Learn more!

homes in flood

Building Homes in Flood Zones: Why Does This Bad Idea Keep Happening?

By Mike Maciag, Governing.com, August 2018

Local economic development and tax revenue concerns are major considerations whenever a city rebuilds following a flood, or whenever its maps are revised. Localities often resist any attempts to cede additional ground to FEMA’s flood zones, sometimes holding up the process for years. New York City challenged a FEMA proposal that dramatically increased the area of the city in flood zones following Hurricane Sandy in 2012. The two sides reached an agreement in 2016 to create two sets of maps. “Almost every place where a developing urban area intersects a floodplain, there are local pressures, typically economic and political, to find a way to add additional development to the floodplain,” says Nicholas Pinter, a professor at the University of California, Davis.

Part of the reason is the influence of developers who lobby to get projects approved or to obtain a variance from flood ordinances. Sometimes elected officials buck the technical advice of agency staff. The Charleston County Council, for example, has approved requests to rezone several Johns Island properties to allow for higher density development against recommendations of county staff.

Read more!


NFIP Guidance

National Flood Insurance Program: Reauthorization

Congress must periodically renew the NFIP’s statutory authority to operate. On September 27, 2019, the President signed legislation passed by Congress that extends the National Flood Insurance Program’s (NFIP’s) authorization to November 21, 2019.

Congress must now reauthorize the NFIP by no later than 11:59 pm on November 21, 2019.

FEMA and Congress have never failed to honor the flood insurance contracts in place with NFIP policyholders. Should the NFIP’s authorization lapse, FEMA would still have authority to ensure the payment of valid claims with available funds. However, FEMA would stop selling and renewing policies for millions of properties in communities across the nation. Nationwide, the National Association of Realtors estimates that a lapse might impact approximately 40,000 home sale closings per month.


This Month in History

November 6, 1977, the Kelly Barnes Dam Gives Way in Georgia

After four days of heavy rains, the earthen Kelly Barnes Dam broke, sending flood waters through the town of Toccoa Falls, Georgia in the middle of the night. The flood killed 39 people and left an aftermath of damage and destruction, costing $2.8 million. On December 7, 1977, one month after the failure, President Carter directed the Secretary of the Army to immediately commence the inspection of more than 9,000 non-federal dams that posed a high potential for loss of life and property, were they to fail.

Learn more!


November Flood Funny


Image by Kirkman & Scott

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